Tillerson Didn’t Mention The Biggest Issue During Talks With Mexico

Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not raise the question of how Mexico might pay for the border wall during meetings with Mexican representatives at the State Department last week.

Tillerson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he “had no conversation” with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray about making Mexico fund the construction of a 2,000-mile barrier along the southern border, which President Donald Trump often promised to do during the campaign.

“George, it’s just not part of our discussions between the foreign minister and myself,” Tillerson said to Stephanopoulos.

Border wall funding has become a sensitive subject since Trump took office in January. Mexican leaders have said that their government will play no part in paying for the wall’s construction, while Trump and his supporters in Congress insist that Mexico will be forced to pay up — if not directly, then indirectly through taxes on remittances or Mexican goods imported to the U.S.

Republican Reps. Mike Rogers and Lou Barletta proposed in late March a bill that would levy a 2 percent tax on wire transfers from the U.S. to Mexico and Central American countries. Named the Border Wall Funding Act of 2017, the measure would take a cut of the billions of dollars sent by immigrants to their relatives south of the border each year. (RELATED: Border Bill Would Tax Illegal Immigrants To Pay For Wall)

According to World Bank estimates, Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, sent about $24 billion to Mexico in 2015 alone.

While the issue of border wall funding didn’t come up during the talks, Tillerson said he did discuss with Videgaray how to reduce the flow of migrants north across the border. The secretary of state also highlighted recent statistics showing a significant decline in the number of people caught trying to cross the border illegally. (RELATED: Former Arizona Border Chief: Arizona Wall Put A Dramatic Stop To Illegal Crossings)

“I’m sure you’ve seen the data that is coming out and the level of immigration, illegal crossings from Mexico whether it’s of Mexican nationals–but in particular of Central American nationals–has dropped dramatically,” Tillerson said. “So I think Mexico is quite pleased and we’ve had a number of discussions with them on how we work together to continue to make further progress.”

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